How to Write a Case Study: Bookmarkable Guide & Template

Earning the trust of prospective customers can be a struggle. Before you can even begin to expect to earn their business, you need to demonstrate your ability to deliver on what your product or service promises.

Writing a case study is a great way to do that.

Sure, you could say that you’re great at X, or that you’re way ahead of the competition when it comes to Y. But at the end of the day, what you really need to win new business is cold, hard proof.

One of the best ways to prove your worth is through a compelling case study.

What Is a Case Study?

A case study examines a person’s or business’s specific challenge or goal, and how they solved for it. Case studies can vary greatly in length and focus on a number of details related to the initial challenge and applied solution.

In professional settings, it’s common for a case study to tell the story of a successful business partnership between a vendor and a client.

Whether it’s a brief snapshot of your client’s health since working with you, or a long success story of the client’s growth, your case study will measure this success using metrics that are agreed upon by the client you’re featuring. Perhaps the success you’re highlighting is in the number of leads your client generated, customers closed, or revenue gained. Any one of these key performance indicators (KPIs) are examples of your company’s services in action.

When done correctly, these examples of your work can chronicle the positive impact your business has on existing or previous customers. New Call-to-action

To help you arm your prospects with information they can trust, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to create effective case studies for your business — as well as free case study templates for creating your own.

Want to learn as you write your case study? Listen to an audio summary of this post below.

Case Study Templates

How to Write a Business Case Study

1. Determine the case study’s objective and format.

All business case studies are designed to demonstrate the value of your services, but they can focus on several different client objectives and take a few different forms.

Your first step when writing a case study is to determine the objective or goal of the subject you’re featuring, and the format in which you’ll create the case study. In other words, what will the client have succeeded in doing by the end of the piece? How will you tell this story?

Possible Case Study Objectives

The client objective you focus on will depend on what you want to prove to your future customers as a result of publishing this case study.

Your case study can focus on one of the following client objectives:

  • Complying with government regulation
  • Lowering business costs
  • Becoming profitable
  • Generating more leads
  • Closing on more customers
  • Generating more revenue
  • Expanding into a new market
  • Becoming more sustainable or energy-efficient

Possible Case Study Formats

Case studies don’t have to be simple, written one-pagers. Using different media in your case study can allow you to promote your final piece on different channels. For example, while a written case study might just live on your website and get featured in a Facebook post, you can post an infographic case study on Pinterest, and a video case study on your YouTube channel.

Here are some different case study formats to consider:

Written Case Study

Consider writing this case study in the form of an ebook and converting it to a downloadable PDF. Then, gate the PDF behind a landing page and form for readers to fill out before downloading the piece, allowing this case study to generate leads for your business.

Video Case Study

Plan on meeting with the client and shooting an interview. Seeing the subject, in person, talk about the service you provided them can go a long way in the eyes of your potential customers.

Infographic Case Study

Use the long, vertical format of an infographic to tell your success story from top to bottom. As you progress down the infographic, emphasize major KPIs using bigger text and charts that show the successes your client has had since working with you.

Podcast Case Study

Podcasts are a platform for you to have a candid conversation with your client. This type of case study can sound more real and human to your audience — they’ll know the partnership between you and your client was a genuine success.

2. Find the right case study candidate.

Writing about your previous projects requires more than picking a client and telling a story. You need permission, quotes, and a plan. To start, here are a few things to look for in potential candidates.

Product Knowledge

It helps to select a customer who’s well-versed in the logistics of your product or service. That way, he or she can better speak to the value of what you offer in a way that makes sense for future customers.

Remarkable Results

Clients that have seen the best results are going to make the strongest case studies. If their own businesses have seen an exemplary ROI from your product or service, they’re more likely to convey the enthusiasm that you want prospects to feel, too.

One part of this step is to choose clients who have experienced unexpected success from your product or service. When you’ve provided non-traditional customers — in industries that you don’t usually work with, for example — with positive results, it can help to remove doubts from prospects.

Recognizable Names

While small companies can have powerful stories, bigger or more notable brands tend to lend credibility to your own — in some cases, having brand recognition can lead to 24.4X as much growth as companies without it.

Switchers

Customers that came to you after working with a competitor help highlight your competitive advantage, and might even sway decisions in your favor.

3. Reach out to your chosen subject.

To get the right case study candidate on board, you have to set the stage for clear and open communication. That means outlining expectations and a timeline right away — not having those is one of the biggest culprits in delayed case study creation.

It’s helpful to know what you’ll need from your chosen subject, like permission to use any brand names and share the project information publicly. Kick off the process with an email that runs through exactly what they can expect from you, as well as what is expected of them. To give you an idea of what that might look like, check out this sample email:

Case study permission email template for sending to a client or subject

You might be wondering, “What’s a Case Study Release Form?” or, “What’s a Success Story Letter?” Let’s break those down.

Case Study Release Form

This document can vary, depending on factors like the size of your business, the nature of your work, and what you intend to do with the case studies once they are completed. That said, you should typically aim to include the following in the Case Study Release Form:

  • A clear explanation of why you are creating this case study and how it will be used.
  • A statement defining the information and potentially trademarked information you expect to include about the company — things like names, logos, job titles, and pictures.
  • An explanation of what you expect from the participant, beyond the completion of the case study. For example, is this customer willing to act as a reference or share feedback, and do you have permission to pass contact information along for these purposes?
  • A note about compensation.

Success Story Letter

As noted in the sample email, this document serves as an outline for the entire case study process. Other than a brief explanation of how the customer will benefit from case study participation, you’ll want to be sure to define the following steps in the Success Story Letter.

The Acceptance

First, you’ll need to receive internal approval from the company’s marketing team. Once approved, the Release Form should be signed and returned to you. It’s also a good time to determine a timeline that meets the needs and capabilities of both teams.

The Questionnaire

To ensure that you have a productive interview — which is one of the best ways to collect information for the case study — you’ll want to ask the participant to complete a questionnaire prior to this conversation. That will provide your team with the necessary foundation to organize the interview, and get the most out of it.

The Interview

Once the questionnaire is completed, someone on your team should reach out to the participant to schedule a 30- to 60-minute interview, which should include a series of custom questions related to the customer’s experience with your product or service.

The Draft Review

After the case study is composed, you’ll want to send a draft to the customer, allowing an opportunity to give you feedback and edits.

The Final Approval

Once any necessary edits are completed, send a revised copy of the case study to the customer for final approval.

Once the case study goes live — on your website or elsewhere — it’s best to contact the customer with a link to the page where the case study lives. Don’t be afraid to ask your participants to share these links with their own networks, as it not only demonstrates your ability to deliver positive results, but their impressive growth, as well.

4. Ensure you’re asking the right questions.

Before you execute the questionnaire and actual interview, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. A strong case study results from being prepared to ask the right questions. What do those look like? Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • What are your goals?
  • What challenges were you experiencing prior to purchasing our product or service?
  • What made our product or service stand out against our competitors?
  • What did your decision-making process look like?
  • How have you benefited from using our product or service? (Where applicable, always ask for data.)

Keep in mind that the questionnaire is designed to help you gain insights into what sort of strong, success-focused questions to ask during the actual interview. And once you get to that stage, we recommend that you follow the “Golden Rule of Interviewing.” Sounds fancy, right? It’s actually quite simple — ask open-ended questions.

If you’re looking to craft a compelling story, “yes” or “no” answers won’t provide the details you need. Focus on questions that invite elaboration, such as, “Can you describe …?” or, “Tell me about …”

In terms of the interview structure, we recommend categorizing the questions and flow into six specific sections. Combined, they’ll allow you to gather enough information to put together a rich, comprehensive study.

The Customer’s Business

The goal of this section is to generate a better understanding of the company’s current challenges and goals, and how they fit into the landscape of their industry. Sample questions might include:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How many employees do you have?
  • What are some of the objectives of your department at this time?

The Need for a Solution

In order to tell a compelling story, you need context. That helps match the customer’s need with your solution. Sample questions might include:

  • What challenges and objectives led you to look for a solution?
  • What might have happened if you did not identify a solution?
  • Did you explore other solutions prior to this that did not work out? If so, what happened?

The Decision Process

Exploring how the customer arrived at the decision to work with you helps to guide potential customers through their own decision-making processes. Sample questions might include:

  • How did you hear about our product or service?
  • Who was involved in the selection process?
  • What was most important to you when evaluating your options?

The Implementation

The focus here should be placed on the customer’s experience during the onboarding process. Sample questions might include:

  • How long did it take to get up and running?
  • Did that meet your expectations?
  • Who was involved in the process?

The Solution in Action

The goal of this section is to better understand how the customer is using your product or service. Sample questions might include:

  • Is there a particular aspect of the product or service that you rely on most?
  • Who is using the product or service?

The Results

In this section, you want to uncover impressive measurable outcomes — the more numbers, the better. Sample questions might include:

  • How is the product or service helping you save time and increase productivity?
  • In what ways does that enhance your competitive advantage?
  • How much have you increased metrics X, Y, and Z?

5. Lay out your case study outline.

When it comes time to take all of the information you’ve collected and actually turn it into something, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Where should you start? What should you include? What’s the best way to structure it?

To help you get a handle on this step, it’s important to first understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the ways you can present a case study. They can be very visual, which you’ll see in some of the examples we’ve included below, and can sometimes be communicated mostly through video or photos, with a bit of accompanying text.

Whether your case study is primarily written or visual, we recommend focusing on the seven-part outline, below. Note: Even if you do elect to use a visual case study, it should still include all of this information, but presented in its intended format.

  1. Title: Keep it short. Focus on highlighting the most compelling accomplishment.
  2. Executive Summary: A 2-4 sentence summary of the entire story. You’ll want to follow it with 2-3 bullet points that display metrics showcasing success.
  3. About the Subject: An introduction to the person or company you served, which can be pulled from a LinkedIn Business profile or client website.
  4. Challenges and Objectives: A 2-3 paragraph description of the customer’s challenges, prior to using your product or service. This section should also include the goals or objectives the customer set out to achieve.
  5. Your method: A 2-3 paragraph section that describes how your product or service provided a solution to their problem.
  6. Results: A 2-3 paragraph testimonial that proves how your product or service specifically benefited the person or company, and helped achieve its goals. Include numbers to quantify your contributions.
  7. Supporting Visuals or Quotes: Pick one or two powerful quotes that you would feature at the bottom of the sections above, as well as a visual that supports the story you are telling.

To help you visualize this case study outline, check out this case study template, which can also be downloaded here.

Case study template with sample outline

Case study template with sample outline 2

When laying out your case study, focus on conveying the information you’ve gathered in the most clear and concise way possible. Make it easy to scan and comprehend, and be sure to provide an attractive call-to-action at the bottom — that should provide readers an opportunity to learn more about your product or service.

6. Publish and promote your case study.

Once you’ve completed your case study, it’s time to publish and promote it. Some case study formats have pretty obvious promotional outlets — a video case study can go on YouTube, just as an infographic case study can go on Pinterest.

But there are still other ways to publish and promote your case study. Here are a couple of ideas:

Gated Behind a Blog Post

As stated earlier in this article, written case studies make terrific lead-generators if you convert them into a downloadable format, like a PDF. To generate leads from your case study, consider writing a blog post that tells an abbreviated story of your client’s success and asking readers to fill out a form with their name and email address if they’d like to read the rest in your PDF.

Then, promote this blog post on social media, through a Facebook post or a tweet.

Published as a Page on Your Website

As a growing business, you might need to display your case study out in the open to gain the trust of your target audience.

Rather than gating it behind a landing page, publish your case study to its own page on your website, and direct people here from your homepage with a “Case Studies” or “Testimonials” button along your homepage’s top navigation bar.

Business Case Study Examples

You drove the results, made the connect, set the expectations, used the questionnaire to conduct a successful interview, and boiled down your findings into a compelling story. And after all of that, you’re left with a little piece of sales enabling gold — a case study.

To show you what a well-executed final product looks like, have a look at some of these marketing case study examples.

1. “New England Journal of Medicine,” by Corey McPherson Nash

Case study example on New England Journal of Medicine, by Corey McPherson Nash

When branding and design studio Corey McPherson Nash showcases its work, it makes sense for it to be visual — after all, that’s what they do. So in building the case study for the studio’s work on the New England Journal of Medicine’s integrated advertising campaign — a project that included the goal of promoting the client’s digital presence — Corey McPherson Nash showed its audience what it did, rather than purely telling it.

Notice that the case study does include some light written copy — which includes the major points we’ve suggested — but really lets the visuals do the talking, allowing users to really absorb the studio’s services.

2. “Shopify Uses HubSpot CRM to Transform High Volume Sales Organization,” by HubSpot

Case study example on Shopify, by HubSpot

What’s interesting about this case study is the way it leads with the customer. That reflects a major HubSpot credo, which is to always solve for the customer first. The copy leads with a brief description of why Shopify uses HubSpot, and is accompanied by a short video and some basic statistics on the company.

Notice that this case study uses mixed-media. Yes, there is a short video, but it’s elaborated upon in the additional text on the page. So while your case studies can use one or the other, don’t be afraid to combine written copy with visuals to emphasize the project’s success.

3. “Designing the Future of Urban Farming,” by IDEO

Case study example on INFARM, by IDEO

Here’s a design company that knows how to lead with simplicity in its case studies. As soon as the visitor arrives at the page, he or she is greeted with a big, bold photo, and two very simple columns of text — “The Challenge” and “The Outcome.”

Immediately, IDEO has communicated two of the case study’s major pillars. And while that’s great — the company created a solution for vertical farming startup INFARM’s challenge — it doesn’t stop there. As the user scrolls down, those pillars are elaborated upon with comprehensive (but not overwhelming) copy that outlines what that process looked like, replete with quotes and additional visuals.

4. “Secure Wi-Fi Wins Big for Tournament,” by WatchGuard

Then, there are the cases when visuals can tell almost the entire story — when executed correctly. Network security provider WatchGuard is able to do that through this video, which tells the story of how its services enhanced the attendee and vendor experience at the Windmill Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

Showcase Your Work

You work hard at what you do. Now, it’s time to show it to the world — and, perhaps more important, to potential customers.

But before you show off the projects that make you the proudest, make sure you follow the important steps that will help ensure that work is effectively communicated, and leaves all parties feeling good about it.

case study creation kit - guide + template

from Marketing https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33282/the-ultimate-guide-to-creating-compelling-case-studies.aspx

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12 Brainstorming Techniques for Unearthing Better Ideas From Your Team

If you want to hold brainstorms that unearth better, more creative ideas, it all starts with the people in the room. Like, the actual number of people in the room.

That’s my first tip for you: Follow the “pizza rule” for brainstorming. If you’re unfamiliar with the “pizza rule,” it’s the idea that if you have more people in a room than you could feed with a pizza, there are too many people in that room to hold a productive meeting.

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The same rule goes for a brainstorming session: If you’ve got a dozen people sitting around a table, expect a really long list of truly mediocre ideas.

So, what else can you do other than bribe a group of two to six people with pizza to unearth good ideas? So glad you asked.

12 Team Brainstorming Techniques for Getting to Good Ideas

1) Invite a diverse group of people.

If your team works on all of the same projects together, goes to team meetings together, sits next to each other in the office, and hangs out in the same group chats all day … well, needless to say, the ideas will likely start to get pretty homogenous.

Instead, invite new people from other teams to your brainstorms — people with different skill sets and experiences to help get you out of your rut and see things in a new way. It’ll give you that great mix of new perspectives and contextual knowledge that’ll help you land on ideas that are both original and doable.

2) Keep the meeting to 22(ish) minutes.

Nicole Steinbok advocates this technique, and it’s one I’ve used with positive results. (I usually round up to 30 minutes, but what’s a few minutes among friends?) It works particularly well for people like myself that thrive under the threat of a deadline.

In my experience, having a limited amount of time to brainstorm only works if all participants are actually ready for the meeting. (More on that in a minute.) But two other tenets Steinbok harps on are a no-laptop rule, and a no off-topic-banter rule. While some might disagree with the latter, I have found that aggressive time constraints help keep people on task and delivering their best ideas as a result.

3) Provide context and goals well before the meeting.

“Well before the meeting” doesn’t mean that morning. Offer any pertinent information at least two business days in advance so people have a fighting chance at actually being prepared for the brainstorm.

In addition to providing any reading materials or contextual information that help set up the reason for the brainstorm (and explicitly asking that they read it, too), describe what the ideal outcome of the meeting looks like. This will help people come into the meeting understanding the scope of what you’re all trying to do. I think you’ll find this helps you avoid wasting time catching everyone up so you can get to the brainstorm right away.

If necessary, run your meeting like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and dedicate 30 minutes specifically to quietly reading in a group to bring everyone together — especially if they won’t have time to read before the meeting.

4) Ask people to come prepared with some ideas.

Often, great ideas don’t show themselves when you ask them to. They pop up on the train, in the shower, while you’re watching TV … basically any time you’re not actually trying to come up with the idea.

This is one reason why it’s good to provide a few days of lead-time before your meeting, but it’s also why you might want to explicitly ask people to think of some ideas beforehand. With this approach, you might find that you start the meeting off with pretty strong ideas from the get-go, and the group can add to and modify them to make them even stronger. In fact, this hybrid brainstorming approach was found to be more effective in a University of Pennsylvania study.

Frankly, I’ve also found that when everyone comes in cold turkey, the brainstorm often ends with a long list of very uninspired ideas. At the very least, whoever runs the brainstorm should come with a few ideas to kick off the brainstorm and give an indication of what a good idea looks like.

5) Say “no” to the bad ideas. Fast.

It might be brainstorm heresy to recommend people squash bad ideas, but I’ve seen one too many brainstorms go astray because people are too scared to say “no.” This is particularly important if you’re trying to run a quick brainstorm session.

Yes, there’s a fine line: Squashing bad ideas could lead people to fear speaking up, missing out on good ideas as a result. But if you’re giving every idea equal due regardless of merit, then you get off-track real fast and end up down a bad idea rabbit hole.

Better brainstorms that yield better ideas leave time to nurture the strongest inclinations.

On that note …

6) Foster an environment where bad ideas are okay.

Yes, you should call out bad ideas. But you should also make it okay that people had them. Call out your own ideas, in fact. If people can speak freely, but not feel stupid for doing so, you’ll get more ideas out — which makes it more likely you’ll land on a good one.

7) Lean into constraints.

If you have every resource and opportunity in the world, creativity will naturally stifle. Lay out the constraints you’re working within in terms of goals and resources for executing any idea you come up with. Then, try to see those as opportunities for creativity instead of roadblocks that make it impossible to come up with a good idea.

8) Lean into silence.

Anyone in sales already knows: Silence is power. In a brainstorm, silences are times when people get thinking done — either about their own ideas, or how to build on the last idea that came up.

And hey, it might also encourage more people to speak up with an idea, just out of their hatred of uncomfortable silences.

9) Lean into failure … outside of the brainstorm.

If you have a team where taking smart risks — regardless of outcome — is rewarded, people will have a better sense of what ideas are worth pursuing and what’s worth passing on. Because, you know, they do it a lot and get a second sense for these things.

If experimentation is a part of your team culture, that’ll manifest itself in better ideas than if your team is stuck in stasis. You’ll have better brainstorms where creative and smart, yet risky ideas come out.

10) Be prepared to ditch the meeting altogether.

Sometimes in-person meetings aren’t the right format for unearthing good ideas. Certain brainstorms can be better performed digitally.

For example, we often resort to Google Docs or Slack for brainstorms when curating blog post or title ideas across a large group of people. There’s really no need to pull everyone away from their work to participate in a brainstorm like that — and the benefit is that people can participate on their own time, when they’re ready and eager to contribute ideas, not when the meeting happens to occur.

11) Provide a place for anonymous submissions.

For some people, the “right” format might be an anonymous submission. Provide a place for anonymous idea submission both before and after the meeting. People might have some ideas that they’re reticent to bring up in front of the group. It’d be a shame to miss out on those ideas due to shyness, discomfort, or simply a preference for writing out ideas instead of speaking about them. This is easy to set up through a Google form.

12) Be prepared to pursue absolutely nothing that came out of that brainstorm.

Don’t feel like you have to choose and pursue an idea just because you had a brainstorm. If the brainstorm didn’t yield any good ideas, that’s fine. It wasn’t a waste of time. But you will waste your time if you pursue an idea that isn’t worth doing. Moving forward with the lesser of all evils is still … evil.

Instead, do some reflection on your own about why the ideas aren’t ready to see the light of day, and see if any are worth more thought before ditching them. Perhaps you’ll get another group of people in a room to iterate on them — or even the same group once they’ve had some distance from the ideas. Now that ideas have started flowing, you might find a second round of brainstorming yields something even better.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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from Marketing https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/team-brainstorm-ideas

How to Write Compelling Copy: 7 Tips for Writing Content That Converts

Copy is writing that sells, so by definition, it has to be compelling.

Does your copy also have to be concise? Yes. Does it have to be clear? Absolutely. Brevity and clarity will ensure that your message is digestible, which is important if you want your words to be read and understood with ease. That said, the clearest, most concise copy ever written is still a bust if it doesn’t compel its readers to act.

Compelling copy fascinates its target audience and drives them to pull the trigger on a CTA. It does this by capturing their attention, unearthing a pain they’re desperate to assuage, and presenting a mutually valuable, solution-driven call-to-action.

If your goal is to write clear, concise copy, then you can train yourself to do that. Just follow a few guidelines and, of course, practice. But if you want to write compelling copy, then you have to do a lot of research and even more critical thinking.

Let’s break it down …

How to Write Compelling Copy

Before you start that next sales email or landing page, try some of the tips below. Working through them will take some time and thought, but the effort will be worth it when you walk away knowing exactly how to frame your message to achieve the best response.

1) Get to know your target prospect.

The most effective fishermen vary their bait depending on the fish they aim to catch. They know that bass, for example, go after earthworms. Carp love corn. Crappie respond well to rubber lures. Fishermen also adjust their technique depending on the time of day, the water conditions, and the season. They soak up as much information as possible about the fish and it’s environment, ultimately using their learnings to attract and, hopefully, hook.

As it happens, marketers operate similarly, learning as much as they can about their target prospects before casting them their message. Doing so makes it easier to highlight irresistible benefits throughout their copy. Benefits that relieve ultra-specific pain points, making the offer all the more compelling to the right audience.

To accurately and efficiently isolate your target prospect’s problems (which will illuminate the benefits most fascinating to them) start by answering a series of questions about their personal background, their company and the position they hold, and their challenges, goals, and shopping preferences. In other words, create a buyer persona. As a result, you’ll amass an abundance of invaluable information that you can then use to attract attention and inspire action.

2) Exploit the psychology of exclusivity.

If you want more buzz than you can handle, make your prospects feel special. Tell them they’ve been “hand-selected” or “randomly picked” to receive your offer. Isolate them … but in a good way. Make them feel important. People love feeling important.

In fact, self-esteem, or how we view ourselves, is near the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. That’s how important feeling important is to people. It’s a need marketers have been exploiting for decades …

In an article for Fast Company, Robert Rosenthal points us to this U.S. Marines tagline: “The Few. The Proud.” And this American Express tagline: “Membership has its privileges.”

The folks at Google played the exclusivity card, too, creating a frenzy when they launched a soft beta of Google+ and invited only a select few users to create a profile. Google’s marketing team wasn’t trying to be mean, they were trying to create desire (that compels) out of thin air. And they succeeded. Psychology’s good for that.

3) Make it emotional.

When it comes to converting a prospect, the features of your product or service will only get you so far. Why? Because features appeal to your prospect’s logical brain. And purchases aren’t driven by logic. They hinge on emotion, which explains why good commercials make us want to laugh or cry or pick up the phone to call home.

For example, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign was so powerful and thought provoking that it went viral before such a thing even existed. The campaign has been active for over a decade, resonating with millions of women who were left feeling empowered by its message: you are not defined by your makeup.

Dove_Real_Beauty.png

Image Credit: Ad Fuel

That sentiment created countless emotional moments. Those emotions, then, were what drove Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign to its celebrated (and well-deserved) success.

(And when those moments weren’t compelling people to reach for Dove soap, they were driving a new social perspective, which is an entirely separate accomplishment.)

4) Draw analogies and metaphors.

A confusing or dull message is rarely compelling, mainly because people don’t pay much attention to what they don’t perceive to be valuable. If you think about it, most things in life boil down to value. It’s a potent human driver. Therefore, as a copywriter, your job is to first and foremost figure out the value in what you’re selling and then put it into clear, concise, and compelling words.

The latter is almost always harder to do. And if you’re new to copywriting, it could feel almost impossible, like trying to thread a needle while wearing hockey gloves. That’s where analogies and metaphors can lend a hand. They’re especially effective at putting concepts into perspective.

Here are a few examples of metaphorical taglines from The Houston Chronicle:

  • Tropicana: “Your Daily Ray of Sunshine.”
  • Werther’s Original Popcorn: “It’s What Comfort Tastes Like.”
  • Burger King: “Subservient Chicken.”

See how these brands combine two starkly different concepts to tell a story or create an image? You can do that in your copy, too. As long as your juxtaposition makes sense — as long as it connects the dots and isn’t trite — you’re likely doing your reader a favor by helping them experience your offer in a fresh, descriptive, and interesting way.

5) Avoid weasel words.

Weasel words are used by people who want their statements to maintain some plausible deniability. Politicians trying to avoid making any definitive comments, for instance, would use weasel words. Copywriters use them a lot, too, especially if their product’s promise is weak or loose. For example:

  • “Viva Hand Cream fights dryness.” (i.e., you might not win.)
  • Reduce hair loss with Thick & Lush!” (i.e., you won’t cure it.)
  • “Rent from as little as…” (i.e., you’re probably going to spend more.)

These words are named after weasels because of the way the little guys eat their eggs: puncturing a small hole and sucking out the contents, leaving the egg appearing intact but, nevertheless, very much empty. Ever held an empty egg? It’s fragile and delicate, right? Given the slightest bit of pressure, if feels like it would collapse.

Is that how you want your copy to come across? Weak and listless, like ants floating in a puddle? Of course not. So avoid the weasel words when you can. Your writing will be stronger, more authoritative, and more compelling for it.

6) Create urgency.

The more relaxed and comfortable we are physically, the less eager we are to move. Nobody plops down in their favorite La-Z-Boy, puts their feet up, cracks a beer, and thinks, I can’t wait to get up. No. People don’t like moving when they’re in a comfy position.

Same goes for people in a comfortable state of mind. Therefore, if your copy leaves readers with the impression that your offer will always be there, patiently waiting for them to pull the trigger, they may use that as a justification to not convert on your call-to-action. They’ll sleep on it, consider their options, and weigh the pros and cons. And after all that, they may very well do nothing at all because you gave them the chance to talk themselves out of it.

Next time, create some urgency. Set a deadline, using time-sensitive language like “This offer ends tomorrow,” or “Last chance,” or “These savings won’t last forever.” You can also play the scarcity card, reminding them that “There are only a few seats left” or that “Supplies are limited.”

The point is to make your prospects feel uneasy about waiting. Strange as it sounds, the more uncomfortable they are, the more likely it is they’ll be compelled to act.

7) Tailor your CTA.

When you want more brown rice at Chipotle, just ask.

When you want a five and five singles back instead of a ten, go ahead and ask.

When you look at them and everything turns to color and you want to spend your life with them, ask. Ask them to take that next step with you, and maybe they’ll smile and say “yes.” Hopefully, they do.

But you gotta ask. Whether you’re at Chipotle, in line at the grocery store, or in love, if you want something, typically, you have to ask for it. Why would copy be any different? That’s why a CTA, or a call-to-action, is one of the most compelling elements your copy can possess — as long as it’s well-executed.

In other words, don’t settle for the standard “Click now” copy every time. Instead, strive to make your CTAs simple and potent; creative and forthright. Most importantly, make sure to play to your audience. For example:

  • If you’re going after an experimental SaaS audience,
    then give them a “Start your free trial now” CTA.
  • If you know your target persona to be curious and discovery-oriented,
    then give them a “See how it works” CTA.

Click here to dive deeper into these and 14 other call-to-action formulas that make people want to click.

Now, are you going to compel everyone?

You won’t. Not even close. But don’t let that bother you. Copywriting, like any craft, is honed over time. So keep failing. Keep stubbing your toes on the hurdles. That’s natural.

What isn’t natural is writing effective copy that converts. That’s where these tips and techniques can help. Practice them and, over time, you’ll steadily compel more people to take action more often. Until one day, these techniques will become part of you, engrained in your skillset.

And then you’ll be dangerous on cue.

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from Marketing https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/write-compelling-copy-tips

Why So Much Mid- and Bottom-Funnel Content Doesn’t Work — and What We Can Do About It

Recently, I was working on a story about a wave of new technology that could help publishers fight back against Facebook. I spent hours scouring the web for product videos about these new tools because I trust jargony brand press releases about as much as I trust Roseanne Barr to take over my Twitter account. I wanted to see the products in action.

But for many of the tools, finding a decent product video was hard. Way too hard. They either didn’t exist or were generic animated explainers. (You know what I’m talking about. There’s always a waving cartoon white guy with an oddly-shaped head with a voice-over that sounds like the history teacher who put you to sleep every day in 11th grade.)

Unfortunately, this is something I see time and time again as a content strategist. The product video—arguably the most impactful piece of content a brand can create—ends up a total afterthought.

Silo Syndrome

Naturally, I started wondering why so many brands fail to invest in decent product videos. Content investment has been on the rise for years. You think it’d be priority No. 1.

The truth, however, is that content marketing had an awkward adolescence, one that’s left it with some identity issues. For no good reason, marketers have come to think of “content marketing” as articles, white papers, webinars, infographics, “snackable social videos” (groan), and not much else.

As a result, the talented content creators inside many companies get siloed into a content marketing group shut off from the rest of the organization. Product marketing and sales enablement materials are off-limits, guarded by rival marketing teams. While the content at the top of the funnel begins to resemble the work of a modern media company, mid- and bottom-funnel content still looks like it was created in 2002. (And in some cases, I’ve discovered, it was created in 2002.)

The product video problem, in fact, is just a symptom of a larger issue—up until now, most companies have thought about content marketing all wrong.

The End of Content Marketing as We Know It

This year, Gartner released its first magic quadrant for content marketing platforms. It also predicted that “content marketing” as a term will be dead in three years—”because all content will be marketed as a way of attracting attention-limited audiences.”

This is right on … because it was the whole idea behind content marketing in the first place. Content marketing first took off in 2012. By then, it’d become clear that consumers were spending less time paying attention to traditional advertising because of the rapid proliferation of smartphones and streaming. Publishers, desperate to stay afloat, choked webpages with display units, until display had begun to feel less like a channel and more like one of the 10 plagues.

Then, along came content marketing, which posed a simple solution: What if brands just told stories that people wanted to watch, hear and read?

The early, inspiring examples that made Ad Age headlines were all top-of-funnel plays. Red Bull became a major sports media company, GE turned its image around with awesome science and engineering reporting, and American Express created a popular blog for small-business owners.

And so, companies created content marketing groups to give this new movement a try. But many never seriously tried to integrate great content into the rest of their marketing organization.

But the impetus for content marketing was never just a top-of-funnel problem. Great content is meant to grab people’s attention and change the way they think about a brand throughout the customer journey. No one wins when you show up as your cool, fun, best self on the first date, but then devolve into a boring egomaniac wearing a baggy funeral suit by the third.

Ultimately, bad product videos are more than bad product videos. They’re a sign that we need to evolve from content marketing to “marketing with content”—to putting systems in place that ensure every piece of marketing collateral a company creates is as captivating, helpful and on-brand. When that happens, content delivers real business results, building deeper relationships with customers, persuading them to think differently, and solving the problems it was meant to solve.

And if you’re looking for a jumping off point to spark change and prove your point? Well, the product video is a great place to start.

from Marketing https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/why-mid-and-bottom-funnel-content-doesnt-work

21 Incredible Geometric Patterns Perfect for Your Next Design

There’s a certain psychology to shapes.

The square, for instance, evokes feelings of stability and formality — which makes sense, when we think about popular square-shaped items in our lives (houses, tables, computer screens). We often see this shape in logos when reliability is a critical component, like for Microsoft or American Express.

The triangle, meanwhile, can suggest action (road signs, mountains), but might also appear balanced and solid (Egyptian pyramids). We see this shape in logos when mobility is a necessary factor, like for Delta or Adidas.

A geometric pattern repeats or re-aligns shapes to create movement and freshness in a design. Knowing the importance of shapes to create meaning, it makes sense for businesses to consider using geometric patterns to inspire their audience.

Download 195+ visual marketing design templates to use for social media posts,  infographics, and more. 

Here, we’ve compiled some of the sleekest and most innovative geometric patterns businesses are using today. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next redesign, look no further.

1. Gallery and Co. Branding by Foreign Policy.

2. Sorry Colour by Alex Lorenzo.

3. NICFI by Tank Design, Daniel Brox Nordmo, and Ina Brantenberg.

4. Arq by Stitch Design Co.

5. BBC artwork by Liam Brazier.

6. Flock Cafe by Kilo Studio.

7. Ruiseñor by Yeye Design.

8. CareerTrackers by Garbett.

9. The Swap Show by Foreign Policy.

10. Dance Ink by Pentagram.

11. Gulf Air by Saffron Consultants.

12. Business Cards by Lucie Mcilroy.

13. Andrés Sandoval by A Practice for Everyday Life.

14. Dan Pearson Studio by Spin.

15. Beau Cacao by SocioDesign.

16. Comedy Feast by Only.

17. ICP by Aris Zenone.

18. Utrecht by Total Identity Group.

19. St. Erhard by Bedow.

20. Les Vitrines by Des Signes.

21. Moimio by Helen & Co.

 
Ready to use of these designs on your next project? Download our collection of more than 195 design templates for visual content creation below.
 
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195 free visual design templates

from Marketing https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/geometric-patterns-design

Master Online Lead Generation by Reducing Friction

If you’re a marketer, you definitely know it’s no easy feat to convert visitors into leads. There are a ton of potential blockers that can either distract, prevent, or turn off potential leads from filling out your forms. So as a marketer, one of your goals should be to create a lead generation process that’s as frictionless as possible. To achieve this, you need to remove all of those distracting, annoying, and confusing obstacles that commonly prevent visitors from converting.

Want to ensure you’re creating as frictionless a conversion process as possible? Follow these 10 tips.

10 Guaranteed Ways to Create a Frictionless Conversion Process

1. Shorten Your Lead-Capture Forms: Think that 20-field form just might have something to do with the low quantity of leads you’re generating? We do. An uber-long lead-capture form is one of the quickest ways to scare potential leads away from your landing page and make them question, “Is this offer really worth it?” You probably don’t really need to know your lead’s favorite color, so ask only for the information you need to contact and adequately qualify your leads, and understand that there is a delicate balance between quantity and quality.

2. Create Targeted Landing Pages: The more targeted your landing pages are, the more aligned they’ll be to your specific visitors’ needs, making it much more likely they’ll be enticed to convert on your offer. If you’re promoting a landing page to a segment of your prospects that you’ve identified as having interest in a certain topic or having a specific need, tailor the landing page to speak to those needs and address those topics.

3. Remove Top/Side/Bottom Navigation: If prospects make their way to your landing page, don’t you want to keep them there? Streamline the conversion process by removing any other top/side/bottom website navigations from your landing pages to keep visitors from feeling compelled to leave and visit another page on your site. Once they convert, bring back the navigation and consider including a secondary call-to-action on your thank-you page to keep them engaged with your brand.

4. Get Rid of Other CTAs on Landing Pages: Just as you should remove navigation links from your landing pages, you also shouldn’t distract them from the offer you’re promoting there by showcasing other conflicting calls-to-action for other offers. Keep your page focused on that offer, and focus your efforts on convincing visitors to convert there rather than giving them a reason to go someplace else.

5. Create Clear and Optimized CTAs for Your Website/Blog: As a marketer, not only should you be creating landing pages for your offers, but you should also be optimizing your website and blog for conversion, too. The best way to do this is to place relevant calls-to-action on your web pages, blog, and individual blog articles. In fact, the only places you shouldn’t have CTAs are your landing pages, as we discussed earlier. Think of CTAs as ads for your offers. Align the language of your CTAs with the pages and content you place them on to create a more relevant and frictionless experience for visitors.

6. Share Landing Page Links in Social Media: Savvy inbound marketers understand that social media can be an effective tool for lead generation. But savvy inbound marketers also understand how to do it right. Because social media users aren’t yet on your website, you need to create as few steps as possible to convert them into a lead. Rather than promoting an offer and sending social media fans/followers to your website’s homepage, direct them to the unique landing page for that offer. That said, if you want to make a game out of it, you can send them to your homepage and make them guess where to go and what to do next to receive your offer. We just wouldn’t recommend it.

7. Stick to One CTA in Email Marketing: Just as your landing pages should only be honing in on one offer, so should your email messages. Focus your energy around communicating how valuable that one offer is rather than splitting your attention amongst two or more offers.

8. Put Landing Page Forms Above the Fold: ‘Above the fold’ simply means the visitor doesn’t have to scroll down to see the form. Make sure your form is easily visible, and the visitor understands that in order to receive the offer you’re providing, filling out the form is essential. Making your visitors scroll down is just another way to create friction.

9. Use Actionable Language: Tell visitors exactly what to do by using actionable, definitive language in your CTAs, on your landing pages, and in form ‘submit’ buttons. Examples of this include “Download Your Ebook Now” and “Register for the Webinar Today.” There should be no guesswork involved in understanding how visitors can obtain your offer.

10. Just Make it Easy: In general, just don’t make your visitors jump through all sorts of hoops in order to obtain your offer. Dumb it down, and make the process as easy as possible. If you wouldn’t fill out the form or wouldn’t even be able to figure out how to make your way to that landing page in the first place, it’s safe to assume your prospects won’t either.

In what other ways can you reduce friction in your lead generation process?

Image Credit: Emilian Robert Vicol

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from Marketing https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29396/master-online-lead-generation-by-reducing-friction.aspx

6 Predictions for the Convergence of IoT and Digital Marketing

We’re on the cusp of a tectonic shift in digital marketing.

The boom in IoT (Internet of Things) technology will soon allow us to analyze, predict, and respond to consumer behavior in almost every market possible.

That sounds amazing … but what’s the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is the connection of everyday products like cars, alarm clocks, and lights to computing devices via the internet. It allows them to exchange data with each other, providing marketers with more context about their customers’ product usage. This enables marketers to deliver more relevant messages and leads to greater customer engagement. 

For example, if you run out of milk or it spoils, a refrigerator connected to the internet could recognize your need and display a message on its screen or your phone about the best milk deals in town. You could even order a carton through one of those devices if the refrigerator company partnered with a grocery store.  

Since IoT technology connects the internet with objects that are ubiquitous in our daily lives, marketers in almost every industry will be able to engage consumers throughout every phase of the customer journey.

The term “Big Data” is an understatement for the amount of data IoT devices will produce. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, IoT devices and sensors will exceed mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018 and generate a staggering 400 zettabytes of data per year.

IoT’s surge will overjoy marketers because they can leverage these massive data sets to integrate consumer behavioral signals into their marketing stack. This will allow them to capture interactions, conversion metrics, and consumer behavior predictions and link them to purchase-intent data.

Access to this data is exciting, but it could also lead to confusion. Marketers might not know how to interpret this unprecedented influx of information. Changes to the digital marketing landscape are clearly on the horizon. So check out these six predictions of how IoT will influence digital marketing’s growth and evolution and how you can prepare for it.

1) New digital devices will emerge.

Since anything connected to the internet could be an avenue for consumer engagement, marketers will move beyond today’s digital devices like laptops, mobile, and tablets.

For instance, we could use things like car and refrigerator monitors as possible touch points. Amazon already leverages IoT with their Dash buttons, allowing consumers to order a product with the push of a wifi-connected button.

2) IoT data, attribution, and analytics will revolutionize contextual marketing.

IoT devices generate unprecedented amounts of data, so every customer interaction allows marketers to capture consumer intent, behavior, needs, and desires. This makes it possible to serve contextually relevant marketing messages at the most optimal place and time.

Understanding a consumer’s behavior, purchase patterns, and location also provides a level of attribution, analytics, and predictive capabilities that were previously unavailable. Based on signals from IoT devices, we’ll be able to push timely notifications to consumers when they need to purchase something rather than waiting for them to show interest.

These insights and the ability to accurately attribute every interaction throughout the customer journey will be groundbreaking.

3) Marketing technology platforms will treat IoT data like their first born.

Marketing platforms and technologies will be able to ingest and use IoT data similarly to how cookies and unique IDs (UIDs) are used today. These platforms will also use IoT signals to further evolve our current cross-device technologies.

Developing platforms and technologies capable of ingesting, analyzing, and acting on these vast data sets will be a very complex undertaking. But evolution in digital marketing AI and machine learning applications will produce marketing technology platforms that can process, interpret, and evaluate these data sets in near real-time.

In other words, expect many new entrants in the marketing technology space to tackle this challenge.

4) The agency’s role will evolve.

Along with the traditional responsibilities of agencies, they will start playing an increasingly technical, data-centric role as technology partners. Agencies will help build their client’s platforms, develop their internal systems, and manage the implementation of tagging elements.

The agency staff’s skill set must adapt to the evolution of their role, though. They’ll need to develop an agile approach to managing campaigns, marketing initiatives, pricing, and product development.

Keen understanding of the data packets IoT devices can produce will become commonplace, as well as knowing what the actionable endpoints within a customer journey are.

5) Marketers will be able to deliver timely, personalized messages that align with their customer’s lifecycle stage

The ability to deliver timely, personalized messages at the precise moment to the optimal device will transform digital marketing. For example, using data collected from a fitness wearable and proximity data collected from beacons, digital marketers could deliver fitness product messaging or emails when the user is near a relevant advertiser’s store, like a smoothie joint.

The possibilities for using a combination of these signals to provide highly relevant messaging at the optimal moment are unlimited.

IoT could also provide marketers with the information to improve customer experience and determine when they should send acquisition or retention marketing messages. One example is using offline purchases coupled with proximity data from IoT devices in a brick and mortar store to target recent purchasers with an upsell email or social campaigns asking for product feedback to send to their peers.

6) There will be increased scrutiny of privacy and security.

With great data, comes great responsibility. We can expect more privacy and security regulations and technologies focused on protecting both consumer and enterprise data.

Methods such as network segmentation, device-to-device authentication, and bolstered encryption techniques will likely emerge to prevent IoT devices from being compromised.

The data created by the Internet of Things will unleash considerable digital marketing potential. Predicting exactly how these changes will play out is not exact, but the evolution is already underway.

The only question is: will you be prepared for it?

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from Marketing https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/6-predictions-for-the-convergence-of-iot-and-digital-marketing